My Roommate’s a Jock? Well, Crap! by Wade Kelly

MyRoommatesaJock It’s easy to become cynical when life never goes your way.

Cole Reid has been a social recluse since he was fifteen, when he was outed by his high school baseball team. Since then, his obsessive-compulsive behavior and sarcastic nature have driven away most of the population, and everyone else hates him because he’s gay. As he sees it, he’s bound to repulse any prospective friends, let alone boyfriends, so why bother?

By the time Cole enters college, he’s become an anal-retentive loner—but it’s not a problem until his roommate graduates and the housing department assigns Ellis Montgomery to move in with Cole. Ellis is messy, gorgeous, straight, and worst of all, a jock!

During a school year filled with frat buddies, camping expeditions, and meddling parents, Cole and Ellis develop a friendship that turns Cole’s glass-half-empty outlook on its head. There must be more to Ellis than a fun-loving jock—and maybe Cole’s reawakening libido has rekindled his hope for more than camaraderie.

ISBN-13: 978-1-62380-255-4
Pages: 262
BUY LINK: Dreamspinner

REVIEW

There are so many things about this book that I like. It is strong from beginning to end. And I say this even though I wasn’t happy with some of the events that go on.

Out first impression is of Cole, a self admitted control freak with OCD tendencies. We are in his POV for the majority of the book so if Cole rubs you the wrong way then that could hamper your enjoyment of this story. For me, though, I found him to be just the right balance of charm and nuttiness. (I have a little control freak in me so I can relate.) His methods are a little over the top sometimes, but is written in such a way that works. For all that he is trying to stay in the shadows, he has A LOT of fire!

The reasons for his behavior are explained well. His background experiences are hardly new or original, but instead of dragging it out, it is presented in a way that says “this is it, I’ve dealt with it, so should you, let’s move on.” I think it would have been fine for his history to have taken up more page time, but by limiting the past, there was much more room for developing more original here-and-now content.

I knew I should throw out any preconceived notions as soon as the first kiss happened around the 11% mark on my kindle. I’m always worried when the couple gets together too quickly. Either the rest of the book turns too fluffy for my taste, or they go through hell and back to earn their HEA. MRAJ?WC! has given me a third option. There were so many things that happened in this book and none of them felt rushed or incomplete or over dramatic. Every event had it’s own space. (Kind of fitting for a book about a control freak 🙂 )

Another thing I was not expecting but worried about as soon as it presented itself was religion. I find a lot of the religious content of MM books to be heavy handed … either in a nasty, bigoted way or by preaching to the choir. Not so in MRAJ?WC!, at least not in my opinion. A supporting character is religious. His views are discussed and other characters are free to disagree and there is no harm or ill will, no drama, no hidden agenda. Religion happens, that’s about as worked up as anyone gets over it.

POV and timeline a huge sticking points for me. As far as I could see, the timeline was pretty tight. MRAJ?WC! is paced well and written clearly. The POV threw me a couple of times. Cole is the dominant POV, but there are 5 other characters that share their POV at one time or another. 4 POV changes are from supporting characters. Each one brings something necessary to the story even though they originally confused me. The first time it happened I went back to re-read the book blurb because I thought I forgot who the love interest was supposed to be. Why are we hearing from a secondary character, is his POV going to pop up again? The easy answer turned out to be no, but his insight added a lot to the story. As did the other 3 who made singular POV appearances. I didn’t always like what they had to say or how they behaved, but they were all important. Depth, and lots of it!

The 5th POV is obvious, Cole’s roommate, Ellis. We don’t hear from him often, but it’s a doozy when we do. His journey is surprising. The book blurb doesn’t hint too much to Ellis’s inner debate. And his sticking point isn’t his sexuality, not really. There is a little, but it turns out to be much more than that. A self-aware, self-perception kind of thing. This part could have been really insulting if it were written badly. I haven’t seen any reviews mention it, so I can only assume that, like me, they felt Ellis’s feelings, experiences, and actions were written very well. Add in the very real life truth that every sexual escapade isn’t as perfect as most books would like to portray, and Ellis is an awesomely unique character.

The only thing that still has me baffled is Cole’s interaction with Stan, the school’s housing something-or-other. When he is first introduced everything seems fine. I don’t recall anything standing out about the man. Not surprising since he doesn’t have a huge part to play except as the one responsible for saddling the jockaphobe with a jock roommate. When he reappears mid story, he is more developed … but nothing like I assumed based on his and Cole’s earlier encounters. Not his age, not his job, not his personality, and certainly not his intentions. Stan isn’t shown in a good light and I’m not too sure why. Was this just because we are seeing him through Cole’s dark-colored glasses after a bad morning? Cole’s new impression of Stan totally overshadows everything in a distracting way. What was the point? Toning down Stan’s dialogue would have just kept the scene as an essential step along the way. Leaving the scene intact but following it up later with something to re-enforce Cole’s reaction would have given the scene purpose. But as-is, the scene seems to stick out like a sore thumb to me.

But don’t let that stop you. MRAJ?WC! is a really good book that may challenge your perception of college nerd/jock stories. I was not expecting anything more than a few hours of banter reading but got something so much more original and complex.

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Frat House Troopers by Xavier Mayne

FratHouseTroopers State trooper Brandt’s new assignment to infiltrate a sex-cam operation puts him in a very uncomfortable position, especially since he’ll have to perform naked on camera for his audition. Fortunately his partner and best friend, Donnelly, has his back—whether that means helping Brandt shop gay boutiques for sexy underwear or offering Jäger and encouragement while he researches porn.

Despite his mortification, Brandt gives the audition his best “shot”—and becomes an overnight sensation. But to meet the man behind the operation, he’ll have to give a repeat performance, this time live on webcam opposite the highest bidder. Donnelly makes sure to win that auction for his partner’s sake, but their plan has a flaw: faking it is not an option.

In the aftermath, Brandt is a humiliated mess trying desperately to come to terms with what he’s had to do for the job and his own mixed feelings. But Donnelly has been on a journey of discovery of his own. Suddenly everything the two men thought they knew about themselves and each other gets turned inside out. Meanwhile, they still have a case to solve… but it may not be the case they thought it was.
ISBN-13: 978-1-62380-133-5
Pages: 260
BUY LINK: Dreamspinner

REVIEW

I’ve wanted to read this book since the first time I saw it on Dreamspinners’ coming soon page. With cops and the friends-to-lovers theme, it was a sure addition to my TBR pile.

As I sit here nearly a day after having finished, I’m still not sure what rating to give it. I’ve settled on a 4 because instead of this just being a stereotypical story, I think the style of writing and some of the events could really spark some interesting debates.

On one hand, I think there are quite enough differences to make this unique in the gay-for-you category. On the other hand, there were a few plot and POV decisions that had me scratching my head.

There are many reviews on goodreads that will point out how much fun all of the characters are. They also point out the heavy head hopping that dominates the second half of the book. There is definitely a need to suspend a little disbelief when reading this story.

What I’d like to talk about is how straight the main characters are, especially Brandt, whose POV we are in for the majority of the story. A lot of the time gfy stories include repressed feelings and desires … and I think there may have been a very teeny-tiny bit of that here … but very little.

Normally I would be on board for anything new that bucks the trend. But the way Brandt is described, how he acts, what he says about himself, and the extensive amount of inner dialogue within the first 50% portray a VERY straight man. I didn’t see a man opening up to his feelings for his friend. If anything, I saw a man learning to enjoy the attention and spotlight even if it meant is was coming from other men. And again, that was only a small part of the 1st half of the book.

For the most part Brandt seemed utterly disgusted, almost to the point of being offensive. To some extent I was glad to see a more honest portrayal of a straight cop thrown into a sticky situation, but as it got deeper into the story I found it irritating. There was no growth, no understanding, no revelation.

I enjoyed Donnelly being his cop partner; their shopping trips were hysterical. Are the sales staff in gay shoppes really that “hands on” during fittings? Maybe, maybe not. I enjoyed the scenes for their pulp feel, a little throwback to some of the earlier gay fiction. And I really, really liked the character of Nick. In fact, even though I knew ahead of time that Brandt and Donnelly were going to hook-up, I was really pulling for Brandt to pick Nick. Any smidgen of growth and affection Brandt displayed in the 1st half of the book was because of or directed towards Nick, not Donnelly.

Once the AHA moment happens for Brandt and Donnelly, the entire story shifts to sex with a side of sex. The case they were working on disappears from the page as both men embrace their new found – and very sudden – attraction, admitting their love for each other. Too much fluff for my taste, but I really think the romantics are going to enjoy this part.

By the time the case is brought up again, the holes are plugged quickly and the result is nothing like I expected. I wish it had been a little more developed, but I applaud the creative spin.

All in all, I encourage people to pick this story up. It was nothing like I expected but has really kept me thinking. I’d be interested to hear what others think.